Pittsburgh Congressman Seeks Major Mental Healthcare Changes

Cropped SingleCare logo By | November 2, 2015

State Representative Tim Murphy has plans to repair and revitalize Pennsylvania’s antiquated mental health laws.

A recent report from the National Alliance on Mental Health states that almost 44 million adults cope with mental illnesses every year. For 13.6 million Americans (one in 25), the mental illness is severe, and few receive care, according to the National Review.

Without proper treatment, serious mental illness can become tragic: the NAMI report also found that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, third for young people between the ages of ten and 24. Overall, 90% of people who commit suicide live with an underlying mental illness. Yet, despite these sobering statistics, options for treatment are severely lacking.

Improving Communication

Antiquated federal laws still dictate the way that mental health care is administered, and these laws have proven to be problematic for those seeking treatment. Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy believes that updating our nation’s mental health regulations can curb these mind-boggling numbers, according to WTAE.

Murphy, who is a psychologist and works with patients in the Navy, is pushing for H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis” bill, to reach the House floor for a vote. So far, 150 co-sponsors have signed on.

Reintroduced over the past summer, the bill calls for clear channels of communication between families with one or more members who suffer from severe mental illness and the doctors who are caring for them. Reporting for CNN, Sophie Tatum explains that H.R. 2646 loosens up some of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) stringent policies, which have been on the books since 1996.

Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds (D) is supporting the bill saying, “What I’m particularly attracted to in this law is it makes important changes to the HIPAA law that allows adult children to be cared for by the parents or family members that already care for them, gives them access to information that will allow them to provide better for their children.”

Those changes would keep family members informed about key aspects of care: the doctor, the diagnosis, the treatment plan, the following appointment, and medications. Such measures keep family members abreast of medical news and help them better support their loved ones.

Improving Care

In addition to efforts to improve communication, the bill tackles rules that prohibit comprehensive care. Some patients are forced to wait as long as 30 days for a bed in a psychiatric ward, a delay that underscores the drop in national mental health resources over the past 65 years — the number of psych beds in the country has dropped from 500,000 in 1950 to 40,000 today.

Murphy wants to build additional treatment facilities and increase the number of eligible psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to support the mentally ill and their families. Annually, the federal government allocates $130 billion toward mental health. Murphy recommends this money be put toward these increased resources and personnel.

Murphy’s bill will also change current Medicaid rules that are drastically prohibiting adequate mental health treatment. Current Medicaid rules prohibit a patient from visiting a physical physician and a mental health professional on the same day, at the same location.

Medicaid also refuses to match funds for any time spent in a psychiatric hospital with over sixteen beds. H.R. 2646 disregards the number of beds and matches funds for 30 days (on average) in a psychiatric hospital.

Promoting Health

In so many words, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis” seeks to make mental health care more accessible and more manageable for those directly affected as well as their loved ones. Instead of mounting more obstacles to care, the bill demands clear channels for communication and proper medical attention. With or without this bill, there’s no reason to be left in the lurch.

SingleCare can fill in the gaps left by Medicaid when it comes to mental health care. This healthcare platform puts the patient in the driver’s seat, allowing access to doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all at a reduced, pre-negotiated cost. SingleCare cuts through the confusion of insurance with affordable and simple access to care. Patients can get help when they need it and only pay for the care they receive.

(Main image credit: SeanPavonePhoto/Thinkstock)